politics, yoga

my subconscious speaks in song

These random songs that pop into my head – they aren’t so random, it turns out.

Earlier this week, “Authority Song” by John Mellencamp began running on repeat between my ears. I hadn’t heard this song in years. I guess growing up in the 80s formed my malleable neurons into pop song suction cups.

After humming it for a few hours, I looked up the lyrics. There aren’t many, and the chorus was just as I remembered it, repeating over and over again:

I fight authority, authority always wins

I fight authority, authority always wins

I’ve been doing it since I was a young kid and I come out grinning

Oh, I fight authority, authority always wins

Well, that’s a depressing message for such an upbeat sounding song. I then looked up the music video. In black and white, John speaks to the press and play fights with a young boy before heading into the boxing ring to face a professional boxer (meanwhile, John’s just in jeans and a t-shirt, no gloves even). On one side of the ring are the authority figures – the rich, the generals, the dictators. The boy runs up and takes a jab at each of them, but he is pushed aside. On the other side of the boxing ring, the everyday people – the workers, the soldiers, the farmers – comfort the boy.

The authority figures cheer, and the boy turns to leave, somewhat despondently. Then he stops, rolls up his sleeves the way John’s are (making his tee into a tank) and swaggers off. The rich look scandalized. The kid smirks.

I was hoping that hearing the song all the way through would help get it out of my head, but it stuck around until I got the message…meaning, the message from myself, to myself:

I don’t respect authority.

What a relief to remember this core aspect of me! I do not respect authority.  I’m not an anarchist. I see the need for rules and laws to make society function and help make it safer. I almost always follow the rules, even when no one is looking! But, I do not respect authority over my own morals. I never have. I never will. This is something my family, in particular my father, worked hard to shame out of me. He believes he deserves respect and compliance simply because he’s the dad. I resisted. Resisting left me confused, though. Was I the bad girl they made me out to be, just because I didn’t do what they thought all the time? Some of my choices were self-destructive, because I wanted authority over myself more than I wanted what was healthy (I was a kid, after all). Now that I’m an adult and my dad is still insisting I don’t have a right to voice my opinion if he doesn’t like it, it is much easier to see that I wasn’t a bad kid for failing to make him feel secure in this authority as king of the house. It wasn’t even my job.

Resisting current events is the wrong strategy, I believe. What you resist, persists. From yoga, I know this to be true on a cellular level (eccentric muscle contraction works! the way to lengthen and strengthen your hamstrings is resist with your quads). Calls to #resist stress me out. I’m not going to ignore what’s going on, but I’m also not going to wear myself out doing something I know is likely to fail, or even give the things I fear more power!

Then, Elizabeth Warren was silenced on the Senate floor and a new battle cry emerged. Nevertheless, she persisted. I’m on board with persisting. Persisting is the only sane thing to do. Resisting means pushing back. Its a defensive position, trying to gain back lost ground. Persisting is just continuing on the right path. You just keep standing up for what you believe in. You just keep working for what is fair. You don’t get swept up in the fear and hostility, the setbacks and disappointments. You don’t let liars deceive you. You don’t conflate might with right.

You just keep fighting authority. It doesn’t matter if they keep winning – that’s life. Discouragement is the real enemy. To give up the fight is to give up life.

Oh, no, no.

I fight authority.  I’ve been doing it since I was a young kid and I come out grinning.